Yesterday was a big one in terms of this World Cup. Spain, the defending champions, were coming off getting curb-stomped by Holland in their first match, and had to get something out of this match against a surging Chile side in order to have a chance of advancing. Chile, having looked excellent against a surprisingly good Australia squad, saw the opportunity to create a huge upset and knock the defending champions, and one of the sides many assumed would make the final, out of the World Cup earlier than anyone had thought possible.
The match actually opened up strongly in Chile's favor, with Spain looking a step slow and unable to figure out how to penetrate Chile's unusual defensive-mids-instead-of-center-backs defense. They were having a hard time breaking through Spain's defense consistently, but were able to generate periodic threats thanks to the tireless running and trickery of Alexis Sanches and one Eduardo Vargas.
Remember him? The Chilean attacker who inexplicably fell out of favor at Napoli under Walter Mazzarri has been in tremendous form for both club and country over the last year, and yesterday was starting his second World Cup match for Chile after bagging an assist against Australia. In the early goings against Spain, he was causing problems for Javi Martinez on Spain's back line, but it seemed as though Spain would be able to fend off the worst of what Chile had to offer.
After nineteen minutes, Vargas decided he'd had quite enough of that.
Was it pretty? No. But it put Chile ahead, put Spain firmly on their heels, and in the end was all that Chile needed to put Spain out of their misery. Or put them face-first in to the heart of their misery. Either or.
That wouldn't be the end of Vargas' impact. While he wouldn't get another goal or assist, his tireless running up and down Chile's left flank gave Martinez and Cesar Azpilicueta endless fits all match long. His efforts were a huge factor in Chile's win, and will continue to be important as they progress through the knockout rounds.
As for next season, Vargas' future is still very much in the air. Many are assuming he'll be sold this summer, but as a versatile attacker who can play up front or anywhere in the attacking midfield band with quality, he fills a need that Napoli have without having to spend a penny. Considering that Napoli won't have the same budget as last summer and that getting another player of Vargas' caliber won't be cheap, it would be an incredibly smart thing to do to keep him so long as he's willing to stay.
Massive kudos to Vargas for his shift against Spain. Scoring at the World Cup is one of the greatest moments in any player's career, and do score a goal that not only wins a match, but simultaneously takes down a titan of the sport and put your country through to the knockouts is a special one indeed. Vamos Chile, and vamos Vargas.